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Mediatization (" mediation ") is a term from the history of the Holy Roman Empire and the German Confederation . In the empire there were princes and counts (the “real” princes and imperial counts) who had a share in the sovereignty of the Holy Roman Empire. In most cases, the prerequisite was the possession of imperial territory (exception: so-called personalists ). With the mediatization in 1803/1806 they lost most of these rights and were incorporated and subordinated to larger territories in a civil society; as “landlords” they remained on a par with the still sovereign houses. On the other hand, the mediatization of the time meant for the group of imperial barons the loss of their imperial immediacy , i.e. the privilege of being able to sue at first instance in imperial courts.

The mediatization of smaller states was at times an issue in the German Confederation . Especially in the Frankfurt National Assembly in 1848/1849 there was such a mediatization question in which the smallest German states would have been added to larger ones . The states concerned protested and there was no political majority for an issue that did not seem worth the trouble.

Today, mediatization in international law is understood to mean the (interest) representation of domestic actors by the state as a subject under international law .


Even before the beginning of the 19th century, more powerful imperial estates had occasionally succeeded in bringing smaller co-operatives into such a relationship of dependency - especially if their possessions were included as enclaves in theirs. For example, the county of Mansfeld was mediated by the Electorate of Saxony and the ore monastery of Magdeburg in 1580 because of excessive indebtedness. After the Thirty Years' War a number of media principalities emerged .

The Reichsdeputationshauptschluss of 1803 meant the mediatization of many hitherto partially sovereign estates who lost most of their rights - but not their equality with the still sovereign houses - as well as the loss of their prerogative for the imperial barons to be able to sue the imperial courts in first instance (the so-called imperial immediacy) . A number of German imperial princes and imperial counts were assigned certain areas that had previously been imperial direct to France as compensation for the loss of their possessions on the Left Bank of the Rhine . As a result, they came into a relationship of subjects, albeit somewhat modified.

45 of the 51 remaining imperial cities were mediatized and incorporated into neighboring principalities. Only Augsburg , Nuremberg , Frankfurt am Main , Bremen , Hamburg and Lübeck retained the status with reduced rights. Of the 300 territories with imperial status and the approximately 1400 without imperial status that existed in 1789, only 39 territories remained with imperial status. Augsburg and Nuremberg were mediatized by Bavaria in 1805/06 . With the Rhine Confederation Act of 1806, almost all aristocratic rule and imperial counties were abolished .

The German Federal Act of 1815 adopted the corresponding regulations from the Rhine Confederation Act, but left some special rights (including the lower jurisdiction ) to the mediatized princes as noblemen . It stayed that way until the revolution of 1848/49 and sometimes beyond. The mediatized princes and counts were equal in rank to the ruling houses (see equality ) and thus belonged to the high nobility . After 1815 there were only four free cities: Hamburg, Bremen, Lübeck and Frankfurt am Main.

Legal basis in Articles 26 to 28 of the Rhine Confederation Act . Article 26 stated that the Princes of the Rhine Confederation were to receive full sovereignty over their territories. According to Article 26, these were legislation, the highest level of jurisdiction, the highest police force and the right to deploy troops. The mediatization of the imperial knights resulted from this implicitly, they lost the right to be allowed to sue in the first instance in the imperial courts.

Article 27 described which rights the mediatized rulers should keep: the civil law ownership of their domains as patrimonial or private property, all power and feudal rights that are not essential to sovereignty. This included the law of the lower and middle civil and criminal jurisdiction, the legal jurisdiction and police, hunting and fishing, mining and smelting works, tithe and similar rights, patronage and the like, as well as the income flowing from these domains and rights (e.g. the fines for fines).

These rights were alienable, but the respective sovereign had a right of first refusal .

The question of the interpretation of these regulations was legally controversial. While the princes of the Confederation of the Rhine interpreted the term sovereignty broadly, the mediatized class lords interpreted their role as that of subordinate rule. In practice the mediatized position could not prevail. Their efforts were therefore directed towards keeping their legal positions open and concentrated on economic aspects in the negotiations that followed.

Mediatization was implemented through the military occupation of the mediatized areas in coordination with the French military by the troops or law enforcement officers of the federal princes. The annexation was made official with occupation patents and the officials and residents were sworn in on the new rulers or had to pay homage to them.

The future role of the mediatized noblemen was partially regulated in laws (e.g. in the Kingdom of Bavaria with a declaration of March 19, 1807, in the Grand Duchy of Baden with a law of March 20, 1807 or in the Grand Duchy of Hesse with a law of August 1, 1807), In some cases, the princes of the Rhine Confederation made individual agreements with the respective mediatists, as in the Duchy of Nassau .

As a result, the regulations made were relatively uniform and divided into four areas:

  1. The personal rights of honor of the landlords and their families: the landlords received a privileged place of jurisdiction (only their equals (i.e. the ruler himself) should judge them), an address that emphasized their position, at their death a state mourning was ordered and the subjects were obliged to include them in prayer.
  2. The church administration: The consistories of the mediatized were abolished, but they still had a right of patronage (partially restricted by the obligation to present ) .
  3. Administration: Here, large parts of the general administrative tasks were transferred to the sovereigns. However, the authorities mainly appeared in the name of sovereigns and mediators (e.g. Duke of Nassau, Counts Waldbott-Bassenheim's office ). The mediatized retained their own chamber of accounts for the administration of the remaining domains and rights. With regard to the law offices of the mediatized persons, the procedure was different. These were abolished in Nassau (with one exception) and maintained in Baden. The officials of the mediatized had to be confirmed by the sovereign and were sworn in on both.
  4. The division of income and debts: The number and structure of the taxes that the subjects had to pay were extensive and inconsistent. These had to be divided according to Article 27 of the Rhine Confederation Act. Accordingly, the debts of the mediatised had to be divided, depending on whether they arose for "sovereign" tasks or not.

The last point in particular led to most disputes between sovereigns and mediatised people.

Mediatized count and princely houses ("noblemen")

In the Gotha Genealogical Court Calendar (called "Gotha" for short), the content of which today corresponds to the Genealogical Handbook of the Nobility (volume series Princely Houses ), various departments were run. The following is based on one of the last issues from the time of the German Empire - that of 1917.

  • First division: all ruling (until 1917/1918) European “princes (together with all branches of their houses entitled to succeed them) as well as the European royal houses that have been dethroned since the beginning of the 19th century” (Première Partie - Généalogie des Maisons Souveraines).
  • Second section: “Genealogy of the German noblemen, namely the German, formerly imperial, now subordinate Princely and Countess Houses, who are entitled to equality with the ruling princely houses….” (Deuxième Partie - Généalogie des Maisons seigneuriales médiatisées en Allemagne qui ont les droits d'égalité de naissance avec les maisons souveraines).

The following houses still belong to the second department in 1917/1918:


  • Heinz Gollwitzer : The gentlemen. The political and social position of the mediatized 1815–1918. 2nd, revised and supplemented edition. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1964.
  • Daniel Hohrath (ed.): The end of imperial city freedom 1802. On the transition of Swabian imperial cities from emperor to sovereign. Accompanying volume for the exhibition "Kronenwechsel" . Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-17-017603-X .
  • Klaus-Peter Schroeder : The old empire and its cities. Downfall and a new beginning. The mediatization of the Upper German imperial cities in the wake of the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss 1802/03 . Beck, Munich 1991, ISBN 3-406-34781-9 .
  • Horst Tilch (Ed.): Munich Legal Lexicon . Beck, Munich 1987, ISBN 3-406-31090-7 .
  • Literature - Gothaischer Genealogischer Hofkalender and diplomatic-statistical yearbook, 154th year, 1917, Gotha (Perthes)

Individual evidence

  1. The Boyneburg-Bömmelberg with their imperial lordships Erolzheim and Gemen represent the special case of a (only 1806) mediatized baronial house ; also to look at the imperial barons Grote .
  2. Harry Müzing, The mediatization of the former imperial directors and imperial knights in the Duchy of Nassau, Diss. 1980, pp. 80–126

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